After celebrating his eighteenth birthday in March, Cazador passed away on April 11, 2018.
In the photograph, taken a day before he passed away, you can see the intravenous line that went into his back for his subcutaneous fluids. He had kidney disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, and possibly pancreatitis and cancer. And because he had been receiving fluids for so long, we were concerned about his heart toward the latter part of his life.
About four years ago, Cazador’s appetite was weak and he was vomiting frequently. Along with his usual physical examination and blood work, Cazador had undergone an ultrasound test. Although the results were not conclusive or specific, his veterinarian at that time, now retired, believed that steroids, subcutaneous fluids, and other medications might alleviate his symptoms without necessarily treating the root cause of his gastrointestinal problems. She also mentioned that the root cause might be cancer, but without exploratory surgery, we would never know.
Long-term use of steroids might cause other problems, and long-term subcutaneous fluids stresses a cat’s heart. Wanting to avoid surgery, I chose to proceed with fluids, steroids, and other medications. The surgery option was not appealing because, at fourteen years of age, he was already considered an older cat and because surgery might reveal a problem that had no solution. I wanted the remainder of his life to be as comfortable as possible.
When the veterinarian gave Cazador his first fluids at the clinic, he put up a mighty struggle because he was unfamiliar with the setting and he was separated from me. His struggle and my squeamishness about medical procedures led the veterinarian to say that Cazador might not be a good candidate for subcutaneous fluids. Reading between the lines, I also took that to mean that she thought I might not be able to muster up the courage to give him fluids on a regular basis, especially considering how difficult he was in the clinic. Initially, my mother came over every other day to give him his fluids while I kept Cazador calm. And although I am very squeamish when it comes to anything medical, I eventually took over and quickly learned and modified her method. Much to my surprise, Cazador liked receiving fluids from me. When he saw me entering his bedroom and hanging the bag of fluids on the intravenous pole, he, too, entered his bedroom and climbed up onto his pillow “nest” on his bed using the steps that I provided. He then stretched out and waited for me to get everything arranged. When I pinched his skin in preparation for the needle, he stretched out even further and often began to purr. It was a well-choreographed dance. On occasions when my mother was present during his fluids treatment, she always marveled at Cazador’s tranquility.
As mentioned, his subcutaneous fluids began as an every-other-day procedure. Then it progressed to a daily routine, and during about the last three months, I gave him fluids twice a day.
In recent months Cazador had lost a lot of weight. When examining Cazador at his last visit, his veterinarian felt a blockage in his upper chest at the transverse colon area that she thought might be preventing him from eating. Without invasive surgery and a hospital stay, there was simply nothing more that could be done. Because of his age, frailty, and other ongoing conditions and because he and I were so attached, I, with the support of his veterinarian, made the humane decision to allow him to slip away gracefully and peacefully to the great beyond.
I am slowly adjusting to not having Cazador around. During the latter part of his life, he needed a lot of care. Every four to six hours he required some form of medical treatment, such as needles for pain medication, various pills, and fluid injections. We had developed an elaborate routine where we each knew what to expect and when. Now, of course, our routine has ended abruptly.
Throughout his life, he was very happy and easy-going. He always enjoyed playing games. One of his favorite tricks, for example, was to wake me at three o’clock in the morning for a brushing. He had me well trained. And right up to the end of his life, his mind and his sense of humor were as sharp as ever. I miss him terribly.
Switching topics, if any of you need to give your cat subcutaneous fluid at some point, I have a couple of recommendations. First, place the fluid bag in a sink filled with warm to hot water before giving your cat its fluids. That will allow the fluid to be warm when it enters your cat. Your cat will appreciate your thoughtfulness. And second, provide your cat with a warm bed to receive the fluids.
I recommend this heated blanket (Amazon affiliate link). It comes in different sizes. I had three of them for Cazador. I have one on my bed, one where he got his fluids, and another in my office. I put blankets or cat beds over top of the heating pads and allowed him to come and go as he pleased. He absolutely loved his heated spots. For other options, you can go this page on Amazon (affiliate link).
As said previously, I hope your commitment and love for Cazador will bring comfort in the days ahead. Knowing you did all you could to extend his life with dignity and knowing when it was finally time, to let go. May his memory be a blessing for you and your Mom.
Thank you, Diane, for your kind words. Living as closely with Cazador as I did for eighteen years, he will always be a part of me. I will always remember his kindness and sense of humor. As sad as I am to lose him, I am glad his struggle is over. He fought valiantly and with dignity.